Apparently about 27% of the Bible is made up of prediction about the future, and the return of Christ is at least mentioned in all except three (Philemon, 2 & 3 John) books in the New Testament.
Christ’s return was prophesied even from early days – (Jude 14, 15) by Enoch only seven generations after Adam. The final reference to his return is at the end, in Revelation 22:20 “I am coming soon!”
There are some over-arching themes that most Christian scholars agree on (see inside). Other details are more open to varying interpretations and understandings even among main-stream Biblically based Christians. These are about the finer detail and the order of events.
The first coming of Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies in some detail – try scanning through Matthew’s gospel looking for phrases like, “this fulfilled what God said through the prophet …” The New Testament has more descriptions and more prophecies about Jesus’ return.
Two key sections of teaching about this subject come in Matthew 24 & 25 from Jesus himself and in Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. Matthew 24 & 25 is Jesus’ own teaching on it and should be taken very seriously – and it is not comfortable reading!
The overwhelming message is that Christ will return!
Things commonly agreed among Christians:
That Christ will definitely return – over 300 references in the New Testament to this event. (Matt 26:64; Luke 21:27; Acts 1:11; Hebrews 9:28)
Christ’s return will be in a personal way. Jesus himself will return, and it will be a glorious return, not a quiet humble arrival as a baby in a corner of the Middle East. Every eye shall see him (how is not explained) and everyone will have no doubt whatsoever who He is and that He is Lord of all.
His return has purpose and will wind up history and bring in eternity.
The Church will be married to Christ – a reason to rejoice, and to reflect on stories and teaching about our being the bride of Christ;
Everyone will be judged (Matt 25:31ff; Rev 20:12ff) – yes everyone, good or bad or in between!!
All creation will be transformed; we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Rev 21:1)
The time of Christ’s return is unknown. It will be sudden and as much of a surprise as a thief coming in the night. Not even Jesus knew the time when he would return (Mark 13:32).
It must of course, in our time-based understanding, be closer now than it has ever been!
What should we do?
Whether you read the apostles’ letters or Gospels the main teaching given is for believers to be ready by being obedient and devoted to Christ.
Jesus parables – the ten bridesmaids, the faithful servant, the talents, the wedding feast – are all about being faithful, watching and waiting to be ready for the master’s return.
Peter interprets this for us, having written about the end of the world and the judgement and God’s grace in waiting for people to turn to him. In 2 Peter 3:11ff he poses the question since all this is going to happen what kind of people should we be? His answer is that we should seek to live holy and godly lives.
Paul writes to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 5:23) encouraging and inspiring them to ‘blameless’ lives in the power of the Spirit. Often we are quick to recognise our own inability to live the kind of lives Jesus and the Bible call us to, and forget that the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us and that God is able to do great things in us.
There is also teaching about various signs of the coming of the end. All these serve to further motivate us to readiness, encouraged that the day of our ultimate salvation, being made whole, perfected in Christ is drawing closer and we shall be with God forever..